2021-07-02 12:25

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New Joint Union Asbestos Committee Analysis Of Asbestos In Schools Published
To Mark Action Mesothelioma Day

To mark Action Mesothelioma Day 2021, the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) is releasing a report focusing on data obtained and analysed by Dr Gill Reed, JUAC Technical Adviser, which shows how failures by successive governments mean that some of our school buildings with the most dangerous asbestos may still be exposing staff and students for decades to come.

Authored by Dr Gill Reed, Technical Adviser to JUAC, this timely report sets out to establish if pupils and staff in CLASP-type system-built schools (1) are safer today than they were in the period 1960 to 1980.  The conclusion is that they are not – in fact the report highlights that pupils and staff learning and working in CLASP-type schools since 1980 are more likely to die from mesothelioma than those doing so in the period 1960 to 1980.

Available evidence suggests that successive governments have ignored the potential risk from long-term low-level asbestos exposure.  Urgent action is long overdue.  The report (on page 53) sets out 10 recommendations for the current Government, including a national fully funded programme for phased removal of all asbestos from educational buildings, starting with the most dangerous, to be completed no later than 2028.

John McClean, chair of JUAC said:

“This timely and comprehensive report highlights the ongoing failure of successive governments to deal with the asbestos problem in our education estate. For years JUAC has campaigned for the progressive, planned removal of asbestos from schools and further education colleges plus the reinstatement of proactive Health & Safety Executive inspections and greater transparency for staff, pupils and parents.

The report highlights the issues in schools which are most likely to cause exposure to deadly asbestos fibres.
This situation has gone on for too long and this report must serve as a catalyst for immediate government action.”

Pic: Report cover - click to download

The introduction to the report makes for stark reading:

The United Kingdom has the highest mesothelioma rate in the world because of the extensive use of asbestos during the1950s-1980s. Most of the victims were thought to be people who worked with these asbestos materials. This report estimates that 5-10,000 former pupils and staff have already died from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in their former schoolsin1960-1980s.It aims to find out if they are safer today.

The outlined investigation of asbestos management in 60 CLASP schools together with the available published school airborne asbestos levels, suggest that staff and pupils are likely to be exposed to higher asbestos levels, on average, than the former teacher mesothelioma victims that were exposed in their schoolsbetween1960-1980.

Crucially, the available evidence suggested that successive governments have ignored on cost and disruption grounds the significant risk from cumulative long-term exposure of occupants to low levels of asbestos in buildings. Consequently, since 1980 tens of thousands of pupils and staff, attending and working in schools which contain substantial amounts of asbestos (e.g., CLASP type schools), may have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma from school-based exposure.

Shockingly, pupils are particularly at risk.

JUAC calls for urgent Government action to improve the asbestos regulations, identify all CLASP-type schools with unsafe asbestos and fund asbestos removal and replacement of buildings that cannot be made safe.

About JUAC

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) was formed in 2010 and is a trade union campaigning committee comprising of eight unions: Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL); National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT); National Education Union (NEU); NASUWT; UCU, Voice Community; plus the education sections of UNISON, Unite, and the GMB. The Group’s objective is to make all UK schools and colleges safe from the dangers of asbestos. All the unions in JUAC are also members of the Asbestos in Schools (AIS) campaign.

JUAC is a non-party political group. In the long-term we wish to see all asbestos removed from all schools and colleges. However, we recognise that, realistically, the focus in the short and medium-term must be on safe management of asbestos in schools and colleges.

Source: Hazards / JUAC


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